Construction workers guide a roof beam into place as work continues on the second phase of the Topre plant. Bill Lackey/Staff

This key Clark County economic measure is at its best level since 2000

Unemployment rates in Clark and Champaign counties each hit their lowest level in 17 years in March, according to a state report released Tuesday morning.

Clark County’s unemployment rate was 4 percent last month, while Champaign County’s unemployment rate fell to 3.3 percent. For both counties, that’s the lowest unemployment rate since October 2000, according to information from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

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The unemployment rate was listed at 3.8 percent in Clark County in October that year, while Champaign County’s unemployment rate was 3.1 percent in October 2000. Ohio’s unemployment rate was 4.4 percent last month, down from 4.5 percent in February.

“(The area’s) unemployment rate, even not seasonally adjusted, is way down from last year, and for the right reason,” said Bill LaFayette, owner of Regionomics, a Columbus-based economics and workforce consulting firm. “Employment has gone up rather than the labor force going down.”

The monthly county updates from the state aren’t adjusted to account for seasonal patterns that include summer hiring, major holidays and school schedules. The U.S. and state figures are adjusted for those factors.

Despite the improving unemployment rate, Ohio overall is still lagging the national average, said Andrew J. Kidd, senior economist with the Economic Research Center at the right-leaning Buckeye Institute, in a news release.

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“Ohio’s unemployment rate fell slightly to 4.4 percent, down from 4.5 percent in February. This continued trend, combined with a similar labor force participation rate, is a positive indicator that Ohio’s job market is allowing individuals who desire jobs to get jobs. However, Ohio has yet to reach the national unemployment rate of 4.1 percent.

“This, as well as a labor force participation rate lower than the national average shows that Ohio still has work to do.”

In Champaign County, economic development officials launched a website called Community JobConnect to serve as a community job board, said Marcia Bailey, director of the Champaign Economic Partnership. The CEP serves as an economic development entity for the county.

Bailey said there are still people in the community looking for work or who work part-time but are looking for full-time jobs.

About 40 Champaign County employers have posted job openings on the free Community JobConnect site, even without much marketing.

“Hopefully more people are going to use that for job-seeking, not just to post jobs but actually to find jobs and load their resumes onto it,” Bailey said.

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